Dry mouth, medically termed as xerostomia, is an abnormal or subjective feeling of dryness of the oral cavity, which is associated with reduction of saliva production of the salivary glands. Xerostomia is not considered as a disease but a symptom of an underlying health problem or as a side of effect of some medications or treatments.
Saliva plays numerous important roles in the mouth. It helps in swallowing, mastication, speech, taste, and moisturizing the mucous membrane of the mouth. It also has antibacterial properties that protects and delays tooth decay. Any alteration in the normal flow of saliva would greatly impact the overall oral health.
What Causes Dry Mouths?
There are a number of reasons that can cause xerostomia. Some of which are listed below:
Xerostomia often occurs as a side effect of certain medications, especially if these medications targets the autonomic nervous system. The elderly have a higher chance of developing a dry mouth since they have the tendency to consume greater number of medications. Xerostomia related medications include antihypertensive, tricyclic antidepressants, sedatives, and antihistamines.
Recreational drugs such as heroin and cannabis can result to temporary or permanent reduction of saliva production. This would depend on the frequency of usage and dosage of drugs used.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that involves the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth — resulting in decreased tears and saliva. Another common complaints are dryness of the eye, nose, throat, skin and vagina.
Radiation therapy of the head and neck that affects the salivary glands during treatment may cause permanent dry mouth. Chemicals used in chemotherapy temporarily cause dry mouth. Normal salivary flow goes back after 6 months from the last treatment, however, this is also case to case basis.
Frequent use of tobacco increases the risk of having a dry mouth.
Insufficient amount of fluid circulating the body can also cause dry mouth.
During exercise, there is a high amount of fluid excreted from the body in the form of sweat. Individuals experience dry mouth especially during long periods of exercise.
Some Health Conditions, Illnesses, and Habits
- Anxiety disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleeping with mouth open
- Alzheimer’s disease
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Signs and symptoms of xerostomia includes:
- Dryness of the mouth
- bad breath
- taste disorders
- painful tongue
- thrush or fungal infections
- cracking of the lips and inner lining of the cheeks
- inflammation of the tongue
- gum disease
- tooth decay and plaque
- sticky and stingy saliva
- difficulty of chewing and swallowing
Treatments for Dry Mouth
- Drink plenty of water or have frequent sips of water throughout the day
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Refrain from using recreational drugs such as cannabis
- Avoid salty, sugary, spicy, and highly acidic foods
- Apply lip balm or moisturizer on your lips
- Chew sugar-free gums to stimulate salivation
- Develop a good oral hygiene habit
- Eat health balanced diet
- Use alcohol free mouthwash such as Coconut Oil Swish